Elijah Petersen

Environmental Engineer, Materials Measurement Laboratory

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Elijah graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2003 with BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering and a BA in Psychology. He then received a PhD at the University of Michigan studying the ecological uptake and elimination behaviors of carbon nanotubes using earthworms (Eisenia foetida) and sediment-dwelling oligochaetes (Lumbriculus variegatus). He then received a Fulbright scholarship to do postdoctoral research at the University of Joensuu in Finland where he studied the uptake and elimination of carbon nanotubes and fullerenes in Daphnia magna. Elijah joined NIST as a National Research Council postdoctoral research fellow from 2009-2010 and then became a staff research scientist in 2010.

Given the anticipated widespread use of nanomaterials in the near future, it is critical to develop robust standard methods for assessing their potential impacts to organisms and humans. However, it is unclear if standard methods developed for traditional chemicals can readily be used for nanomaterials, and modifications to these methods or potentially entirely new methods may be necessary. For example, many nanomaterials may cause artifacts in standard toxicological assays that could lead to false positive or false negative results. Thus, a research focus in my team is to identify potential artifacts and design control experiments and other modifications to those assays to minimize artifacts and misunderstandings. In addition, we are studying the use of NIST reference materials (RMs) as positive or negative controls for standard toxicity methods to improve assay reliability and generate reference data. One of my current focuses is on the development of standard methods with C. elegans for use with nanomaterials and the application of advanced microscopy techniques to improve the robustness of the assays. The sources of variability for an ISO method for C. elegans growth inhibition are being evaluated through cause & effect analysis and experimentation to identify the most critical sources of variability in the assay. I am also focused on the development of methods to accurately quantify nanomaterial concentrations in environmental matrices and organisms to enable bioaccumulation protocols and provide number-based nanoparticle concentrations. Developing robust assays will enable understanding the potential risks of nanomaterials through the development of a scientifically rigorous research foundation. This will help enable the safe usage of these products thus promoting human and ecological health and facilitating economic activity through the safe commercialization of products utilizing nanotechnology.